A new tool to help funders coordinate and grow early childhood investments in East Africa

23 Jul

Coordinating investments is a challenge all funders face. How do we avoid duplicating investments in some areas while other areas are overlooked and underfunded? How do we identify potential synergies and opportunities to collaborate with others who have similar interests, and align our investments to be more impactful?

These questions arise frequently for my colleagues and me at Bernard van Leer Foundation. As the range of actors investing in early childhood development (ECD) in East Africa grows, so does the challenge of understanding who is investing in what, and where.

Luckily, we now have a way to get at the answers we need. With our support, Foundation Center – a leading source of information about philanthropy worldwide – took up the challenge of creating Foundation Maps for Early Childhood Development in East Africa, a funding map that serves as a planning and learning tool to identify gaps and opportunities. Foundation Center designed it with foundations, NGOs, policymakers, and other ECD stakeholders in mind.

Early Childhood Development in East Africa

Continue reading

A mobile app to measure how children experience violence

9 Jul

Child Security Index appChildren’s perceptions of violence are an essential input when it comes to designing, implementing and monitoring prevention policies and programmes. However, their views and experiences are rarely collected systematically, especially in low-income settings. Now, there’s an easier way of filling this knowledge gap.

Developed by Brazil’s Igarapé Institute, the Child Security Index (CSI) is an open-source smartphone app which generated considerable excitement on its launch in 2014. It won the Google Impact Challenge prize, was covered by media from the BBC to O Globo, given a platform by TEDGlobal and attracted interest from the World Bank and UNICEF, among others. Continue reading

State of the World’s Fathers: how health providers can help fathers get more involved in early childhood

19 Jun

Father & sonThis week marks the release of the first-ever State of the World’s Fathers report, an advocacy publication of the MenCare campaign. The report highlights research, policies, and programme examples regarding the state of men’s contributions to parenting and caregiving globally. Kate Gilmore, deputy executive director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), called the report “historic” at its global launch.

The report highlights the great potential for positive outcomes that results from involving fathers before, during and after the birth of a child. Expecting a child is often a turning point in men’s lives – they may feel excited, vulnerable, and open to change. As one first time father from South Africa put it: “I am excited about [my wife] being pregnant, I have started to learn about it. I am willing to learn everything – changing nappies…I want to do everything from the start to infinity!” Continue reading

A social business that empowers Bedouin women, delivers delicious hot meals to Bedouin children and makes money

30 Apr

Al Sanabel2The Israeli government has asked BvLF partner AJEEC-NISPED to roll out its Al-Sanabel school catering business nationwide in 2015. It continues the remarkable success story of a social enterprise that the Foundation has helped to fund.

The poverty of the Negev desert region, which extends over the southern half of Israel, means that almost all the Bedouin children who live there are guaranteed a hot meal at school each day under the Israeli food security act of 2004. However, the poor quality and unfamiliar style of the cooked-from-frozen meals provided by private contractors from elsewhere in Israel meant many Bedouin children would not eat them. Continue reading

Using evidence, storytelling and campaigning to improve living conditions for Roma children

9 Apr

Roma_2Fighting discrimination is a long journey marked by many small steps. An example: in April 2014, Rome’s Mayor Ignazio Marino banned the use of “nomad” – a word that was perpetuating outdated stereotypes and prejudices – to refer to Roma people in official policy and institutional documents. It followed a specific request from Foundation partner Associazione 21 Iuglio, and reflects an ongoing transformation in public attitudes.

It was with good intentions that the Italian authorities had first settled Roma people in camps in the 1980s, believing their “nomadic culture” meant they would not adjust to life in conventional houses. But now the camps, overcrowded and often lacking in proper sanitation or security, are not fit places for young children to grow up in. Their isolated locations and insecure tenure for residents make it hard for Roma families to find and keep jobs or to access services, including education. Continue reading

Putting the ‘Personal’ back into Parenting

30 Mar

EL_PER_apoyo_redinnova (2)When I started working at the Foundation a year ago, my first task was to assist in the preparation of the publication Early Childhood Matters. The topic chosen for the issue was responsive parenting. As I did some deeper research I came across a quote by attachment theorist, John Bowlby: “If a community values its children, it must cherish their parents.”

I was immediately struck by the comment. Knowing the science of early childhood development, I had always considered the parent as a critical factor; but with a heavy focus on the child, I sometimes regarded parenting as a static input alongside high-quality living conditions, proper nutrition or access to health services. Essentially, I removed the human component from parenting.
Continue reading

Time for Child Care: The Need to Improve Access to Quality Care is Long Overdue

12 Mar

No ceilings_The Full Participation ProjectTwenty years ago the historic UN Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995 brought together delegates from 189 nations around a platform of action that called for “the full and equal participation of women in political, economic, social and cultural life”. As the international community celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8, commemorating achievements of women and girls throughout the world, how close are we to achieving that goal?

According to a report released this week by The Clinton Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, No Ceilings: The Full Participation Report, while progress has been made in areas of health, education and legal rights; in areas of security, economic opportunity, and leadership, “the pace of change has been far too slow… and even when there has been progress, the gains are not shared by all”. Continue reading

Mom, I’m on the blog! – 21st century skills at primary school

5 Mar

Onze klas mijn wereld2Yesterday, as I was sending a text on the train, the conductor said ‘I type the exact same way as you, with one finger.’ I replied: ‘I’m always jealous of how young people do it, much more quickly, with two thumbs.’ The conductor agreed. ‘My son always says: “Dad, you are so slow”. I tell him: “But at least I don’t make any mistakes.”’

Kids are writing and reading more than ever. They spend the entire day on their phones on WhatsApp, Facebook or myriad other websites that are mediated by written language. Who could have foreseen that smartphones would represent such an attack on functional illiteracy? They are a golden opportunity for language education – and yet, in school, they are usually forbidden. How strange. Continue reading

Inaugural conference of the Institute for Human Development, Nairobi

25 Feb
Photo • Rosemary Quipp

Photo • Rosemary Quipp

Earlier this month I visited Nairobi to attend the launch of the Institute for Human Development, a new centre of excellence that will build capacity and drive innovation in research and higher education on human development. Its aim is to advance the quality of individual lives and contribute to the building of successful pluralistic societies, with a particular focus on children, families, and communities within resource-poor regions of the world.

The Institute is a part of the Aga Khan University and brings together researchers, teachers, practitioners and students from across the university and the Aga Khan Development Network, linking with partners in other parts of the world, such as the Fraser Mustard Institute for Human Development, part of the University of Toronto. Continue reading

Calling for a two generation approach to child development

13 Feb

Stepping up Early Childhood Development - World BankOver the years there has been a long standing recognition that child development is influenced by conditions facing families and in turn families are influenced by the community around them. These concepts have recently received renewed attention through a new report released by the World Bank, Stepping Up Early Childhood Development: Investing in Young Children for High Returns (Denboba et al, 2014). The document provides a simple guide for policymakers and practitioners about how to invest in young children and families.

Ascend at Aspen Institute defines two generation approaches as those that “focus on creating opportunities for and addressing needs of both vulnerable parents and children together”. The new report from the World Bank highlights 25 interventions, grouped into five packages (pregnancy, birth, child health, preschool and family support). It reflects a two generation approach by including interventions directly focused on young children as well as a continuum of interventions that support families throughout the early childhood years from conception to 6 years.
Continue reading


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 11,043 other followers

%d bloggers like this: